Justin Gilbert

Justin Gilbert

Mr. Gilbert obtained his law school degrees from Southern Methodist University (J.D.), 1993, and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland (LL.M), 1994.

Interests

Mr. Gilbert concentrates on education and employment law.

Education Law Work

Justin Gilbert and a happy client, sharing a victory soda.

In 2014, 2015 and 2016, Mr. Gilbert devoted substantial time to improving the lives of public school conditions for children with disabilities. Current litigation projects include (1) least restrictive environments in East Tennessee for children with intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, and autism; (2) state-wide funding impediments to least restrictive environment across the state of Tennessee; (3) the excessive use of restraints and isolations upon children with disabilities; and (4) the provision of health services through Section 504 and the ADA for children with impairments such as epilepsy and neurological impairments.

Mr. Gilbert has initiated direct federal actions involving abuse cases, lack of funding, and systemic impediments to least restrictive environments. He has also tried numerous due process cases for children with disabilities, followed by federal court enforcement actions across the state — in Knoxville, Nashville, and Chattanooga. He has then enforced the rights of children, as well as established important case law before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on issues ranging from school retaliation and school segregation of children with disabilities.

Some recent case law contributions by Mr. Gilbert include:

W.H. v. Tenn. Dept. of Educ., 2016 U.S Dist. Lexis 7206 (M.D. Tenn. 2016) (recognizing state funding formula impediments which can deter least restrictive environment for elementary school children with autism)

AC v. Shelby County Bd of Educ, 711 F.3d 687 (6th Cir. 2013) (retaliation against parents of child with Type 1 diabetes for requesting accommodations was legally sufficient—reversing district court);

WH v. TDOE and Knox County Schools, 2016 U.S. Dist. Lexis 7206 (M.D. Tenn. 2016) (TDOE and Knox County properly sued for allegedly rewarding more restrictive environments than necessary);

L.H. v. Hamilton Cty Dep’t of Educ., 2015 U.S. Dist. Lexis 166574 (E.D. Tenn. Dec. 15, 2015) (approval of $185,000 to child with Down syndrome for alleged systemic violation of rights);

C.G. v. Cheatham Cty, 2015 U.S. Dist. Lexis 77134 (M.D. Tenn. 2015) (retaliation against parents of child with severe allergies, under Section 504 and the ADA, does not require exhaustion of administrative remedies);

L.H. v. Hamilton County Dep’t of Educ., 2015 U.S. Dist. Lexis 55103 (E.D. Tenn. 2015) (state may be sued for violating rights of child with Down syndrome in county school system);

Cockrill v. Metro Gov’t, 2015 U.S. Dist. Lexis 3180 (M.D. Tenn. 2015) (special education teacher properly brought claims of retaliation against school when she fought for rights of children with special needs);

Grummons v. Williamson County Bd of Educ., 2014 U.S. Dist. Lexis 51983 (M.D. Tenn. 2014) (Department of Children’s Services must disclose all documents to parents relating to any alleged retaliation by school system)

Mr. Gilbert’s work in the area of school litigation has not only netted substantial sums to assist these children, but has delivered legal changes affecting others — including ensuring access to informal assistance from the Tennessee Department of Education, allowing parents to proceed to federal court for systemic actions involving lack of funding. Currently pending are cases involving ensuring “least restrictive environment” for children with intellectual disabilities; preventing the illegal restraint and seclusion of children with intellectual disabilities; and ensuring public schools are not rewarded for too-restrictive placements. In these cases, and others, Mr. Gilbert associates with some of the finest experts in the country, and even the world.

Employment Law Work

For over two decades, Mr. Gilbert has championed the rights of workers in virtually every context, from sex discrimination, unequal pay, racial discrimination, disability discrimination, age discrimination, and retaliation.

Mr. Gilbert has litigated and negotiated sensitive separations for executive-level women in corporations and professional environments who have experienced sexual harassment, retaliation, and “glass ceiling” issues. He has represented top-level executives (CEOs, CFOs, Vice Presidents) concerning age discrimination, retaliation, and breach of fiduciary duty.

At the state level, Mr. Gilbert established comparator standards for Tennessee discrimination cases in Pierce v. City of Humboldt, __ S.W.3d __, 2013 Tenn. App. Lexis 200 (Tn. Ct. App. 2013). At the federal level, Mr. Gilbert established how to prove illegal motives in ADA and section 504 retaliation cases, including A.C. v. Shelby County Bd. Of Educ, __ F.3d __, 2013 U.S. App. Lexis 6426 (6th Cir. 2013).

Mr. Gilbert also won trials against large manufacturers and retailers. In 2011, the Sixth Circuit affirmed Mr. Gilbert’s jury verdict for retaliation under the ADA and Tennessee Disability Act, including full back pay, compensatory damages, reinstatement of the plaintiff, and $200,000 in attorney fees: Baker v. Windsor Republic Doors, 414 F.App’x 764 (6th Cir. 2011). In Taylor v. Autozone (2010), he obtained compensatory and punitive damages for the company’s action of terminating an employee for absences related to workers’ compensation treatments.

Some of Mr. Gilbert’s other reported cases include:

Carufe v. Int’l Hotels Group Res., Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. Lexis 124004 (M.D. Tenn. 2014) (age discrimination claims proper, denying employer’s motions, for executive-level employee);

Epperson v. Res. Healthcare, 566 Fed.Appx. 433 (W.D. Tenn. 2014) (Sixth Circuit finds sufficient evidence of retaliation against home health nurse);

Ferguson v. Williamson County Dep’t of Emerg. Comm., 18 F.Supp. 3d 947 (M.D. 2014) (sufficient evidence that employer interfered with leave from work due to employee’s pregnancy);

Williams v. CSX Transportation, 2011 U.S.App. Lexis 13120 (6th Cir. 2011) (finding administrative exhaustion of EEOC due to charge info sheet);

Gaines v. Western Express, 2011 U.S. Dist. 93760 (M.D. TN. 2011) (illegal medical examination/decision involving DOT driver);

Foster v. Windsor Republic Door, Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 142820 (W.D. Tenn. 2010) (arbitrator’s decision is not binding on separate discrimination action);

Maldanado v. Pictsweet Co, 670 F.Supp.2d 691 (W.D. Tenn. November 2009) (employer liable for denying FMLA leave to mother of rape victim);

Baker v. Windsor Republic Doors, — F. Supp.2d –, 2009 WL 2064584 (W.D. Tenn. July 2009) (upholding ADA jury verdict including compensatory damages under Section 1981a(a)(2));

Rowell v. Madison County, Tenn., 2009 WL 1918078 (W.D. Tenn. 2009) (recognizing, inter alia, First Amendment retaliation claims arising from complaints to public officials);

Gordon v. W.E. Stephens, 2008 WL 4254584 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2008) (adopting new definition of “tangible job action” in Tennessee sexual harassment law);

Little v. Eastgate Liquor of Jackson, 2007 WL 1202431 (W.D. TN April 24, 2007) (creating new exception to the at-will rule of employment in Tennessee where employer fires an employee for saving another from death or serious bodily injury);

Stevens v. Advance Stores Co., Inc., 2007 WL 1170734 (April 17, 2007 M.D. Tenn.) (FMLA notice may be given through conduct and medical conditions, not just words);

Craig v. Porter Cable Delta, 2006 WL 1006857 (W.D. Tenn. April 17, 2006) (use of FMLA qualifying absences to terminate employee constitutes direct evidence of FMLA violation);

Wilkerson v. Autozone, Inc., 152 Fed.Appx. 444 (6th Cir. 2005) (affirming FMLA verdict finding employee proved both equitable estoppel and met the “employee prejudice test” under the FMLA);

Moorer v. Baptist Memorial Health Care System, 398 F.3d 469 (6th Cir. 2005) ($1,000,000 plaintiff’s verdict affirmed, establishing elements of ADA “regarded as” claim involving alcoholism and remanding for further damages under FMLA);

Cloar v. Kohler Co., 2005 WL 2396643 (W.D. Tenn. 2005) (employee may sue for retaliation based on good faith belief of FMLA leave entitlement);

Brown v. CBK, 2005 WL 3263873 (W.D. Tenn. 2005) (recognizing individual liability exists under FMLA for supervisors, not just corporate officers);

Hodge v. Henry County Med. Ctr, 341 F.Supp2d 968 (W.D. Tenn. 2003) (recognizing eating and digestion as “major life activities” under ADA).

Public Advocacy

Mr. Gilbert assists employment practitioners through amicus efforts. In 2014, Mr. Gilbert argued two cases before the Tennessee Supreme Court involving issues of causation standards for retaliation and reporting requirements for whistleblowers. Additionally, writing for the Tennessee Employment Lawyers Association (TENNELA), Mr. Gilbert helped change the summary judgment standard for employment cases in Gossett v. Tractor Supply Co., 320 S.W.3d 777 (Tenn. 2010), and then convinced the Tennessee Supreme Court to reject the federal pleading standards of Twombly and Iqbal, in Webb v. Nashville Area Habitat, 346 S.W.3d 422 (Tenn. 2011).

Writing

Mr. Gilbert published “Gossett, White, and Staub – the Dilemma of Multiple Motivations in Employment Law Cases,” (June 2011, Tennessee Bar Journal). This article addresses legal standards of causation for cases involving multiple factors for decision-making. He authored “Prior History, Present Discrimination, and the ADA’s Record of Disability,” Univ. Memphis Law Rev, Spring 2001.

Settlements

Mr. Gilbert has obtained hundreds of confidential settlements. Recently, he has obtained a string of six-figure settlements for damages incurred by public school-children and their parents. Additionally, he recently obtained:

  • $750,000 settlement in a single-plaintiff sexual harassment case;
  • $250,000 against a pharmaceutical company in single-plaintiff whistleblower case;
  • $750,000 for an executive in a wrongful termination case;
  • $250,000 against a city in Northwest Tennessee for single-plaintiff whistleblowing;
  • $150,000 settlement in a single-plaintiff discrimination case against a middle Tennessee doctor’s clinic;
  • $340,000 against a West Tennessee manufacturing facility in a single-plaintiff case.

Honors / Memberships

In 2013, 2014 and 2015, Mr. Gilbert was named among Tennessee’s Best of the Best in Employment Law, and was rated Martindale Hubbell prestigious AV Preeminent by his peers. Mr. Gilbert has in 2013, 2014, and 2015 been named in the top 100 lawyers in the state of Tennessee. Mr. Gilbert is the immediate past President of the Tennessee Employment Lawyer’s Association (TENNELA). Nationally, he is a member of the National Employment Lawyers Association’s (NELA’s) Disability Rights Legal Committee. In 2007-2015, Mr. Gilbert was recognized as a “Mid-South Super Lawyer” for Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Mr. Gilbert is counsel to the Star Center in Jackson, Tennessee, an association to help disabled individuals in the workforce and in schools. Statewide, Mr. Gilbert is a member of Tennessee Bar Association’s Labor & Employment Section.

Other

Most important of all, Mr. Gilbert is married to his wife, Lynda, also an attorney, and they have twin boys and two daughters. They live just outside of Chattanooga, in Signal Mountain, Tennessee.

Awards

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